Licensed Terrestrial Pay TV operators not criminals- ACON

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Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed

Association of Cable Operators of Nigeria (ACON) has strongly debunked a newspaper publication of page 25 of This Day newpaper dated 12th October, 2019 written by one Ezra Mabadeje, describing the content of the said article as a false, blantant lie and far from the truth.

ACON, in a statement signed by its General Secretary, Kalada Wilson, and made available to the Journalists, said the allegation was callous, inconsequential and a calculated attempt to smear the the good name and invaluable contributions of AFCON in the state.

In the said article, he made strenuous efforts at calling the Nigerian, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Licensed Terrestrial Pay TV operators’ criminals, thieves and pirates.

“We therefore believe that the current onslaught is a calculated but failed attempt to scare away competition, perpetuate exclusivity and emerge as the sole Pay TV operator on the continent” the statement said.

The statement described Mabadeje, a public Affairs Commentator who wrote from Benin, as a writer who put the cart before the horse by not making good findings before dabbling in to the issue.

This, according to the statement, is a mere advertisement of the writer’s ignorance on the subject under discussion.

“In the business of Satellite Broadcasting, division is made of the mainly Direct-To-Home satellite services providers and the terrestrial pay-tv service providers who re-broadcast signals from the satellite content acquired. Whereas, the DSTV players cover a wide expanse including countries, the terrestrial pay tv operators are city based in Nigeria.

“Therefore, Satellite licensed fees are much higher than that of terrestrial fees. The latter group would normally acquire broadcast content from the satellite operators worldwide. So far as you can receive signals of any content from any part of the world, you could approach the owners and do business with them.

“In the past, the Association of Cable Operators of Nigeria members have had very cordial relationships with Multichoice/DSTV Nigeria.

“Amongst several examples, Multimesh Broadcasting Limited had had mutually beneficial relationship with Multichoice/DSTV way back from 2003-2004 when it acquired licence to transmit Hallmark, Channel O and ESPN through their box and card. They bought from Mnet, content in 2009 valued at $67,457.56. Multimesh Broadcasting Limited in turn sold to African Magic their content “Mary Slessor”, “Queen Amina” and “Amazing Grace” for over $50,000 in 2014. The story is the same for other operators including Communication Trends Limited who have had very robust relationship with Multichoice/DSTV Nigeria.

“Events took an unsavoury turn when they became uncomfortable with our expansionist programme in Nigeria and perceived a competitive threat, and they resorted to frustrating antics against us to stifle our growth. They not only refused availing the local Pay Tv operators in the lower rung with Content but also deliberately began to warehouse other international Content thus denying Nigeria investors and the vast Nigerian viewing public the right to such entertainment.

“We want Nigerians to note that Multichoice and its subsidiaries and shadow companies (Details Nigeria, DSTV, Supersports and M-net) are used to warehouse licenses and content rights to the detriment of the generality of the Nigerian Broadcast industry.

“In the Pay Tv industry acquisition of content is premised on the practice that those on the Direct Satelite Tv platform are better placed to acquire content and are in turn expected to avail those at the terrestrial platform broadcast rights at a fee to enable viewership of entertainment programmes to a larger audience who are at the lower rung of the financial ladder. Thus, everyone is equitably served.

“The Copyright Act prohibits monopoly and so is the Nigerian Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2019 as well as the National Broadcasting Commission code in section 6, it expressly forbids any operator from monopoly of major International sports content like the English Premiership League (EPL).

“In the case of Multichoice (a South Africa Company) it bluntly refused to abide by the tenets of the regulations. Even when the Association of Cable Operators (ACON) also made a case for its members on account of what is expressly stated in the broadcasting code, it still did not shift ground.

“ACON members leveraging on the provisions of the Copyright Act, decided to go ahead to transmit the EPL content on delay mode and approached the Federal High Court in Lagos to determine the price to pay to Multichoice/DSTV for that. The case is presently in court and invariably the status quo is maintained. Until it is vacated, any action by Multichoice to resort to self-help is considered as contempt of court.

“The Cable Tv operators are willing to pay but Multichoice is unwilling to avail them. What do you call that-Monopoly personified or competitive goodwill? This is nothing but a deliberate and calculated act to kill indigenous investors from operating in their father-land.

“One would have expected that a public commentator worth his salt would take time out to make his findings about the industry and its operations before hastily jumping out to document.

“You call your brothers thieves when the court has not said so but happy that a company with monopolistic bent is in Nigeria to cripple businesses of Nigerians. In other countries monopolies are banned. They have institutions that guard against monopolistic practices.

“In the United States, they have the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In Europe, they have the Competition Commission.
Companies can file petition with these organizations if a large company is trying to use their dominant market position to destroy others.

“In Nigeria, we are glad that the Consumer Protection Commission has been expanded to take on additional responsibilities that can help ensure that the playing field is level and no monopoly exists.

“The Copyright Laws of Nigeria allows interested parties to show live broadcasts in delayed mode. Where the parties cannot agree on the price, the federal high court can be approached to set the price.

“We have applied to multichoice for delayed transmission of the sports channels but as usual, they refused. And so, we approached the Federal high court in Lagos to set the price we are supposed to pay for the delayed transmission” the statement read in part.

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